Sound Advice: The Crooked Beat by The Kensington Hillbillys
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Sound Advice: The Crooked Beat by The Kensington Hillbillys

Local band gives countrified Clash.

Cover albums are a very hit or miss proposition. Recreate someone else’s songs too faithfully and you look like a bunch of idiots with no original ideas. Stray too far from the original text, and you’re screwing up someone’s favourite song.

Thankfully, local country-punk hybridizers The Kensington Hillbillys manage to shoot straight down the middle on their new record The Crooked Beat, which country-fies some of the The Clash’s greatest hits.

It’s hard to improve on The Clash (unless we’re talking about Cut the Crap; that album sucked) but the Hillbillys do a great job of finding new layers to the band’s well-known catalogue, providing a sort of through-the-looking glass, alternate universe–type take on the English punk legends.

The traditionally creepy “London Calling” becomes an amped-up rockabilly stomp. The formerly reggae-laced “White Man in Hammersmith Palais” and the new wave-y “Train in Vain” both come out sounding remarkably like Merle Haggard. “Bankrobber” and “Guns of Brixton,” on the other hand, both come out sounding remarkably close to the original, albeit with twangier guitars. The highlight of the album, however, is probably “Wrong ‘Em Boyo,” which you can listen to above. While we’re hesitant to call it better than the original, we will say that it makes a hell of a country song.

The Kensington Hillbillys have been hanging out on the periphery of the Toronto music scene for almost 15 years, garnering a cult following in the process. If country covers of U.K. punk classics is going to be a core part of their new business model, we’re all for it. Who wouldn’t like to hear a country version of “National Insurance Blacklist”?